Well hello there, friends!
Perhaps you’ve heard, but Autostraddle is in the middle of a fundraiser! Well actually, “in the middle of” is a bit of an understatement – we have less than 48 hours less! Over and over again, we have been gobsmacked and humbled by your generosity over these last few weeks. Thank you.
One of the special perks of our fundraiser was the opportunity to be included in a special and urgent edition of “You Need Help!” Here we have seven humans who generously took us up on our offer! You’ll find questions ranging from dealing with your girlfriend’s conservative family, to how to plan for single parenthood as a lesbian, and what to do when you’re the only queer girl bridesmaid at a straight wedding!
The senior editors gathered around our laptops and pretended we were hanging out with you, just some friends together talking about our lives at a table at Olive Garden. Riese wanted the breadsticks, but Heather ordered the garlic knots, so life is not perfect. But at least we have each other!
If you wanted to give to the Autostraddle Fundraiser and haven’t had the chance yet, it’s not too late! You can read more about it here. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for helping to ensure that Autostraddle can thrive for years to come!
I’ve been in a relationship since my senior year of college for almost 8 years now. My girlfriend’s parents are pretty conservative and do not approve. We technically live together in her house, but I also have an apartment because whenever her parents come visit, I’m not allowed to be around. I’m also not allowed at her parent’s house, especially not on any holidays. I feel like a mistress or a dirty secret. I’ve talked about it with my girlfriend and she said that’s just how it’s going to be. It doesn’t seem like she wants to fight for us. She’d rather just keep the peace. It’s like, if we don’t talk about it then it doesn’t exist.
My question is – when is enough, enough? I feel like I have tried to make it work but I don’t want to live like this forever. Is there a better way to approach this issue with her? It’s a touchy subject and I don’t blame her for not wanting to lose her family. Still, 8 years is a long time and it feels like I’m giving up.
Riese: This is really hard! And complicated!
Rachel: I feel like this person already knows that eight years is enough! If they don’t want to live like this forever, and their girlfriend is saying it’s never going to change…
Heather: In my early gay days, I was in a relationship with someone who refused to come out to her family or co-workers and I think all these years later, I am still unraveling the shame I internalized from that time. You can say you know it’s just her family’s religion, or brainwashing by Fox News or whatever, but at the end of the day the message you’re internalizing is there’s something wrong with you, right? Something sinful.
Riese: That’s a good point, Heather.
Heather: And so much of having a relationship is building a life together. And to build that life, you have to have these warm, accepting, validating experiences that she’s being robbed of, and will continue to be robbed of.
Laneia: Do we think the girlfriend has ever stayed home from her family’s celebrations in solidarity with the letter writer? It seems like no.
Riese: Yeah I feel like often in these situations, the girlfriend like, just doesn’t go home if their partner is not allowed.
Sarah: It sounds like her girlfriend isn’t invited to be a part of their family. Her parents are making her choose and that’s extremely emotionally manipulative.
Rachel: Right – I don’t think it has to be her girlfriend’s fault or mean she’s a bad person, but it seems clear that there’s a choice between having this relationship with her parents and having a healthy relationship, and the girlfriend has clearly communicated that the former will always be her choice.
Laneia: I’m so sad for this person! Both persons!
Sarah: This happened with my ex. Even though my ex and my mom had a relationship, my dad never wanted to meet her which caused crazy conflict.
Riese: It did mean that once I got to hang out with Sarah on Christmas in Seattle though! So there’s a silver lining.
Sarah: Once she posed the question — what if you died? Would I have to skip the funeral? What if your mom died? Would I not be able to be there to hold your hand? My grandmother actually passed during our relationship, and I had to go without her because I didn’t want to prioritize my own pain over my mothers pain. All because this MAN was too homophobic and caught up in his own bullshit to open up his mind.
Rachel: That’s so intense, Sarah, wow.
Carmen: I’m so sorry, Sarah.
Heather and Laneia: Me, too.
Heather: Right, so there’s a lot going in here. There’s the partner saying, in word and in deed, that her parents’ feelings and her relationship with her parents will always be her priority over her partner. (Which after eight years?? Is… I don’t think super healthy.) And you’ve got the partner just making the decision that, no, this is a non-negotiable, and it doesn’t matter what kind of emotional turmoil it puts the letter writer in, or whether or not that will keep their relationship from experiencing more fullness.
Rachel: I think for me in an ideal world this letter writer’s girlfriend would reject the premise of choosing between her partner or family and shift the choice onto her parents: “This is my life, you can choose whether you want to be a full part of it or not.”
Heather: I agree, Rachel.
Riese: I think it sounds like she wants her partner to fight for her, and she doesn’t feel like she is.
Carmen: And I don’t think her partner is going to, which I know is awful to say outloud
Riese: It’s a terrible situation for both of them
Sarah: After 6 years I decided to stay back with my partner in solidarity, unless she had plans with her family. It’s important for her partner to establish boundaries with her family and let them know that if they’re uncomfortable with it they can get an AirBnb. as a couple they should come up with rules/boundaries to present to the parents.
Riese: The letter writer is okay her girlfriend is okay with being around the family, not vice versa. So I think it’s on the family to find somewhere else to stay,
Heather: One other suggestion I have is take the money you’ll save from getting rid of that apartment and get yourself a good gay couples’ therapist.
Rachel: What an excellent idea.
Riese: A suggestion I have for the letter writer is turning your apartment into an AirBnB and renting it to her parents when they come to town.
Sarah: That’s amazing! Make money off their homophobia!
Riese: MONETIZE HOMOPHOBIA! QUEER CAPITALISM!
How do I become a writer? Not at Autostraddle necessarily (though I love you very much), but in general? I’ve kept a journal for 13 years, and I love to read personal essays, memoirs, and cultural criticism. But I don’t write for someone other than myself to read and I want to! How do I get started?
Rachel: What a great question! I think a great first step for this person is to start writing the kind of thing they’d like to eventually publish in public, like on a blog of their own. It will help them build a voice and brand and practice doing the kind of writing they’re passionate about, and when they feel like their writing is in a place ready to send out, they’ll have clips and writing samples to show.
Riese: You can also look up local writer’s groups or sometimes cheap community college classes to structure writing into your life and start getting feedback on your work. Reading a lot is always the best first step to becoming an incredible writer, so you’re on the right track there! Hmmmm, how did y’all who didn’t always know that you wanted to be writers become writers? Heather, how did you transition from accounting into writing professionally?
Heather: I read read read read read and then I wrote wrote wrote wrote. I was very terrible at writing for a very long time, but the more I did it, the better I got at it. I started a personal blog (this was before social media, when people had to say their opinions in more than 280 characters) and, on my most trafficked day, I had 56 readers. But that didn’t stop me! I just kept reading more stories and telling more stories!
And then, in 2008, the gay controversy of the day was that AfterEllen had put vloggers on their Hot 100 list and it was like the most important thing in the world, the biggest scandal, and oh the betrayal and how could you and whatever. I commented on AfterEllen, something funny. Sarah Warn DM’ed me to say thank you. She was a legend to me. So I DM’ed her back, and told her a story. And she thought I was a pretty decent writer and she followed my email to my blog of 56 readers and offered me $17 per post to write one post per day about lesbian pop culture.
Riese: That was honestly a lot of money to get paid for a post in 2008.
Rachel: Yes! Absolutely. Writing is at least as much of a learned skill as a talent and practicing is so important.
Carmen: I’m trying to think about this? I agree with Rachel about practicing the type of writing that you eventually want to publish. Though, I used Autostraddle’s comment section as my personal blog, but it still worked. The underlying theory is the same: I practiced writing TV criticism over and over until it was a skill I could depend on. Then when the opportunity came, I shot my shot.
Many thanks to Heather Hogan for approaching me and allowing the opportunity to present itself.
Heather: :writes you a check for $17:
Carmen: But seriously, Drew Gregory sent Heather Hogan old Tumblr posts! After a year of writing on a tumblr that she said wasn’t read by basically anyone other than her. I think the key is to write what you want to read, which is also a very bad paraphrase of a Toni Morrison quote. And then just… keep writing it.
Heather: You know who I get pitched by the most and who gets most angry when I reject them? Straight men! Straight men are out here regularly pitching to Autostraddle and feeling entitled to publish here!
So my advice is: Don’t let those straight men, who are way less qualified than you, and who angrily try to force their way into spaces that don’t even belong to them, take the paying writing jobs from you! Pitch! And pitch! To agents, to websites, to magazines, on Twitter, however!
Believe in the beauty of your dream and pitch!
I’m masculine-presenting/butch and (I just found out!) pregnant. What’s a butch girl to wear when she gets a baby bump going?
Rachel: I think open tops are good – an open flannel or chambray over a basic t-shirt can work. Bottoms are harder but there must be a pair of maternity blue jeans that are straight-leg.
Riese: Just wanna show my support for pregnant butches in general.
Laneia: Listen, maternity clothes have come so fucking far. Every time I’m in Target I’m like OH WOW LOOKS LIKE I PICKED THE WRONG DECADE TO CARRY A BABY AROUND IN MY UTERUS HUH.
Rachel: Maternity workwear might also have a better array of options that aren’t actively femme.
Laneia: And, basics! Jeans, drop-waist jogger situations, and tees for days.
Riese: ASOS has a ton of maternity clothes and a lot of them are basics.
Laneia: Also getting a tailor! Couldn’t hurt to maybe try a tailor???
Heather: You know what? Here! I made you a collage!
Do you have any life advice for someone who is 27, but still has absolutely zero dating or dating-adjacent experience with anyone of any gender, but now wants to have those experiences, and doesn’t necessarily feel like they will ever have them or even deserve them?
For some context, I grew up in a conservative Christian environment where the vibe was “don’t even think about dating (a man, obviously) until after you marry him.” I only figured out I’m a lesbian a couple years ago, and I’m only out to my closest friends. I feel like being so intensely introverted, and partially closeted, and GNC (or maybe non-binary, still figuring that one out) makes me not exactly the most dateable person out there – even though I would never see those things as a negative about anyone else.
I think part of what makes it hard is that it feels like all my friends are either in happy long-term relationships or have a really easy time putting themselves on dating apps and getting immediate results. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone, but it sometimes seems like the rest of the world takes to this stuff like it’s second nature. My plan at the moment is to get a few things in order that I know will boost my general confidence, before I actively try to date, but sometimes even that feels like a cop-out stance that I’ve stuck myself in as a way to procrastinate. I’m honestly so happy and grateful to be queer, but I’m obviously stressed about putting that into practice in a more concrete way. Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom.
Heather: Friend, listen! That voice in your head telling you that you’re too old to explore a part of yourself you just discovered, or that you’ve missed your chance to do the thing you want to do, or that everyone else has already achieved or experienced this thing you haven’t yet — that’s some straight people malarky! I grew up in a church that sounds kind of like the church you grew up in, and it seemed to me that everyone was on this rigid timeline like a bunch of robots. Boyfriends, engagements, weddings, babies. And in a way that’s true: the church does program that into us. But queer time moves differently than regular time; we’re on our own schedule; we exist outside the rigidity of the patriarchal space-time continuum. That little clock tick-tocking in your head, it’s lying to you. I wasn’t even out to everyone in my life when I was your age, and I certainly had never had a girlfriend!
So, that’s the first step. Just knowing you’re not behind and that the entire world and future is open to you, full of wonder and possibilities and experiences around dating and connecting with other queer people.
The second step, I think, is knowing that you don’t have to have everything “together” or “figured out” when you start dating. No one ever has everything “together” or “figured out.” We’re all on journeys in different areas of our life — some of us with our mental and emotional and physical health, some of us with our gender, some of us with our goals and dreams, some of us with processing past relationships and experiences, some of us with spirituality, some of us with family, and on and on. My favorite people are always the ones who are honest about how they’re still growing, and open about what they’re learning about themselves and the world around them. How boring to spend time with someone who’s just stopped trying to know themselves better and live a more authentic and fulfilling life!
And finally, there’s no shame in being an introvert. All my best friends and my partner are introverts and I also am an introvert. (I actually think there might be a higher ratio of introverts to extroverts in the queer community, but that’s not based on science or anything.) There are so many ways to meet people, and they don’t to be extrovert ways. You can meet people who have similar interests as you on Twitter or Instagram, and launch from there. You could go to real life queer meet-ups in your city or meet-ups for hobbies you enjoy and suss out queer people on your own. You can meet people in the comments on Autostraddle dot com or even give A-Camp a go (or something like an Olivia vacation? I know some people who have been on those things and loved them!).
Ah, the world is just opening itself up to you and I know that’s scary, but also it’s exciting! Just keep taking small steps toward the things you want and remember that you exist on a whole other timeline than the one your church taught you about now.
I have always known I wanted to have kids someday, but as I grow older (I’m 26 now), I’m becoming less and less sure that I want to get married or have a long-term or live-in romantic partner. I’d rather be single and casually dating, or just generally conduct my romantic and sexual relationships outside of the “relationship escalator.” My question is: How do those two desires work together?
I know it would be really, really, tough to have children all by myself. Is it even fair to any potential future kids to have them on purpose as a single lesbian? I live in the South where lots of people have kids in their 20s, but most are married, or at least have a partner. I guess my ideal situation would be to find someone who wants to platonically co-parent with me (whether that person would be a sperm donor or not). Do you have any advice for how I might go about making this dream a reality?
Riese: Oh man, this is such a Vanessa question.
Rachel: This is such a real question! I feel like I know so many people who are in this place! Including Vanessa.
Laneia: Should I add Vanessa to this conversation?
Carmen: Please, yes!
Rachel: First of all I want to say it’s SUPER fair for this person to consider kids – being raised by a single lesbian is great! I had a mom and a dad but honestly would have been better off with just the mom!
Riese: Also, it’s fair to have children on purpose as a single lesbian! A lot of people have partners who are basically worthless.
I just feel like SO FEW kids actually grow up in homes with two stable loving parents forever and ever. People get divorced, people die, people change their lives, people mess up. Even just having one stable loving parent is having a lot more than a lot of people have.
Laneia: I will just say for the ultimate and true record that choosing to have a child as a single person is FINE AND LOVELY. All of those 20-somethings that got married out of high school and had babies will get divorced soon and one of them might start dating you who knows. Sometimes that happens also.
Then you’d have STEPKIDS!
Vanessa: So I think this person is asking 2 questions right?
1. Is it possible to live my life off the relationship escalator with casual dating etc. and not a specific partner?
2. is it okay to be a single queer parent?
And the answer to both questions is YES SURE IS, but also of course you should try to plan in certain ways, and have reasonable expectations for both scenarios.I like to think of life in seasons. I think it’s fair to assume that while you don’t have kids and are actively investing in dating casually, you will have lots of casual dates and sex if that’s what you want, and then you’ll be living that dream. But when you decide you’re ready to have a kid, it’s probable that you’ll put the breaks on casual dating for a little! Because you know, you’ll have a whole baby. But that’s okay! Because seasons!
The question of how to plan for being a single parent by choice, co-parenting with a likeminded human or multiple humans, is to ask around and see who else is into that. In Portland there’s a fairly large community of queer single parents by choice. In New York, I haven’t found that. So I purposefully want to be settled in Portland when I decide to get pregnant, because I want that support. If I wanted to be near my bio fam, I would plan to be in Boston. I think it is 100000% fine to be a single parent, but basically the question this person is asking is, “How Should I Structure My Life?” I think taking some serious self inventory on that, and then seeing who you might know who might share your dreams or who you might be interested in meeting to share those dreams, is a realistic way to go about structuring you life the way you want it to look.
Does that make sense?
Heather: That was very good!
Laneia: PERFECT! Yes!
Carmen: I just want to say one more time, for the official record, that I’m also very strongly Team being raised by a rad single mom.
Vanessa: Hell Yes Team Rad Single Mom!!
Riese: YAY FOR SINGLE MOMS!
I’m a 28 year old bisexual woman. I came out to my mom in my early twenties and she was very supportive, especially while I was single and dating mostly women. However, she recently said something I found really biphobic.
I am currently in a committed, long-term relationship with a cis man (who is also bisexual, although my mom doesn’t know this). Recently, the three of us were hanging out and the topic of actors who would play us in movies came up. My partner suggested Ellen Page, and I said something about how flattering that was. My mom said, “Yeah, she’s so cool!” and I then said, “AND she’s gay!” My mom then, rather out of nowhere and in a hostile voice, said “You really need to come to terms with the fact that you’re in a relationship with a man.” I was completely confused and hurt, and told her in the moment that I found it hurtful. She did not get why and didn’t apologize, and the conversation moved on.
This was over a week ago, and I’m still stewing over it. It took me years to come out because throughout my teen years I thought bisexuality wasn’t real and that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Some offhand comments my mom made during those years only reinforced that fear. This recent conversation sent me back to that place, and also echoes things people have said to my partner in the past that’s also made him pretty private about his sexuality. I clearly need to talk to her about it again, because it’s been really bothering me.
Autostraddle, how can I approach my mother after the fact and explain why I found her comment invalidating and hostile (or am I a fake bisexual who needs to stop getting excited when celebrities are gay????)
Heather: Well, let the record show you are not a fake bisexual, friend! Also I applaud you for having the courage and mental alacrity to confront her, verbally, in the moment!
Rachel: I think this letter writer definitely needs to address this, and also accept that it probably won’t be a single conversation. I would love to see her write an email or text to her mom – I think written is often easier, gives you more time to compose your thoughts! – explaining that you’re bisexual and invested in the queer community and LGBT issues regardless of your relationship, and that she needs to accept that going forward, and that your partner isn’t threatened by those things and you aren’t sure why she is either.
Laneia: Super agree about going the route of writing her!
Heather: I agree with Rachel. Whenever I’ve had to explain to my family why their attempts at “in the know” humor bother me or hurt my feelings, usually what they need is some context. Why I feel that way, the broader conversation they’re probably not aware of in the queer community, how I know they’re just trying to be a funny pal but actually I would feel much more supported if X thing.
And I always do it by email because I cry when I have to talk about my feelings out loud.
Sarah: “Hey mom? Can we talk for a second? It really hurt my feelings when you dismissed my attraction to women by saying X. I just want to let you know that even though I am dating a man, I’m still a bisexual lady. And guess what. My boyfriend is a bisexual man. I contain multitudes Mom. Multitudinal levels of complicated beautiful gorgeous layers MOM. Suck on that! Aye yi yi yi yi!!!”
Rachel: I think also going forward if this comes up again, which it sounds like it will if Mom has made similar comments in the past, it’s really helpful to me to turn it back on Mom and put her in a position of having to explain or defend that behavior:”Why does that bother you, Mom?” “That seemed to really upset you, Mom, what’s that about?” “I’m really happy about my relationship, Mom – why are you so worried about it?” Rather than the question asker having to accommodate the behavior
Heather: Right, you could just point-blank ask, “Do you think me being in a relationship with a man makes me not bisexual?”
Laneia: Oooooooh yes, the ol’ “what makes you think that” trick. Diabolical.
Rachel: Also, any boundaries you do want to set with Mom related to this or anything else need to be accompanied with consequences! So if you come to a place of wanting to say “it isn’t acceptable for you to comment on my sexuality in a negative way in front of me” – that can be followed up with a consequence: “And if you do, I will leave the conversation” etc.
Heather: Love this!
I am a bridesmaid and I need help surviving the bachelorette weekend and wedding. Any tips for getting through the burlap, mason jars, candles, heteronormativity, required uniformity in hair/nails/jewelry/dress, bride-centric jokes (“Ut’s her big day!” “This will be the best day of your life!”), and the hetero marriage ball & chain jokes (“Now you’re stuck with each other!”)?
I have witnessed the bride buying into this value system and seriously believing in it, AND/ALSO on the flipside: It super stressing her out to the point of panic attacks. How do I balance supporting her desire and wishes for her wedding vs inflecting some situations with reality checks (Like… yeah, this craft project you saw on Pinterest *is* hard and you shouldn’t let it give you this much anxiety!)
Riese: This girl needs a supportive group chat.
Rachel: Hm my advice is drinking, but maybe that isn’t good advice.
Sarah: Excuse me. But yes I would also drink and flirt with everyone to entertain myself. And dance a lot and ridiculously. Make the straight people blur together with alcohol eyes.
Laneia: What if the letter writer turned this into …. a bingo game. Just their own personal bingo game. Yes, I will make this person a bingo.